Flame retardants

In our food

June 19, 2012

Sure, we’ve known for years now that the flame-resistant chemicals used throughout our built environment — in our homes, furniture, electronics, and textiles — are problematic. They’re endemic in humans living in the First World, with possible health effects on our fertility and development. And even if you weren’t a breastfed baby, absorbing them straight from mom, you’re still picking them up in your everyday household dust.

This spring, the Chicago Tribune ran a classic multipart investigative series on flame retardants, documenting a history of collusion between cigarette and chemical manufacturers to fill our homes with flame retardants — which, apart from being toxic in themselves, do eventually catch fire and emit noxious fumes while burning.

As with the bisphenol A controversy — just one of many chemicals leaching into our food via packagingpublic opinion is starting to swing against the widespread use of chemical flame retardants, with a May “stroller brigade” march on Washington in support of the Safe Chemicals Act.

Now comes word that, yes, flame retardants are in our food as well. As Emily Sohn noted on Discovery News, the detected levels were low, but their mere presence is troublesome.

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